Engineer quiet about office block

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 20/07/2014
Moorhouse Ave building
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ

STILL STANDING: CTV building designer David Harding was the principal engineer on this five-storey Christchurch building on Moorhouse Ave.

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The designer of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building, which collapsed in the Christchurch earthquake killing 115 people, also took the lead on a five-storey office block in the central city 20 years later.

David Harding, who was found by the Canterbury earthquakes royal commission to have been working "beyond his competence" when designing the CTV building in 1986, was the principal engineer on the building at 22 Moorhouse Ave in 2008.

Tenants in White Fox & Jones House, which overlooks Hagley Park, include Samsung, GE Energy, GCA Lawyers, Opus and law firm, White Fox & Jones.

Harding, principal of Harding Consulting Engineers, was the "engineer on record" who signed off the design. It is understood Harding worked on the foundation design at 22 Moorhouse Ave, while son Matthew Harding, a Sydney-based structural engineer, did the calculations and computer modelling.

An Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (Ipenz) disciplinary committee hearing last week was told David Harding had not designed a multi-level building since the CTV building.

The Sunday Star-Times sought clarification from Harding's lawyer Michael Kirkland about the roles David and Matthew Harding had in the design and why Harding took on the project after more than 20 years between multi-level designs, but received no response.

The building was constructed by Amherst Properties, which confirmed David Harding was the principal engineer.

Amherst property manager Robyn O'Brien said it was built to the "highest construction standards" and met the building codes. It was assessed after each earthquake event in 2010 and 2011, did not sustain any structural damage and was deemed safe to occupy, she said.

An independent detailed engineering evaluation (DEE) by Gridline Ltd rated it higher than 68 per cent of the revised post-quake building code. None of the tenants had expressed concerns, O'Brien said.

"The White Fox & Jones building was designed and built many years later than the CTV building, allowing for better engineering and technology advancements, as well as more stringent building standards," she said.

"Amherst Properties has every confidence that the building design is structurally sound and this has been reiterated in the DEE report."

Opus and Samsung declined to comment on Harding's involvement in the building's design. White Fox & Jones said it supported the views in Amherst's statement.

Maurice Walker, a GCA Lawyers partner, said he was not aware Harding was the engineer.

The firm relocated to 22 Moorhouse Ave after losing its offices in the Forsyth Barr building, in which the stairwells collapsed and people were left trapped after the February 2011 quake.

"The building's standing and we've been in here since two days after the February earthquake. Although it's shaken a few times, it's still up," Walker said.

Ipenz last week heard two complaints about Harding's role in the CTV design and one relating to claims he failed to disclose his links to the collapsed building when seeking re-registration in July 2011.

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Harding, who did not attend on medical grounds, said in a statement at the hearing that his mental and physical health were at an "extremely low ebb" and his more than 40-year engineering career "all but over".

He said he was not involved in new design work and would end his career in September.

- Sunday Star Times

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